Jane Rylett


Molecular Medicine Research Group

Why I Became a Scientist

I have always been fascinated by how things are put together and how they work. As an undergraduate student, I developed an interest in changes that occur in cells during aging and the effects on brain function. This provided me with a model to be able to focus my questions around mechanisms involved in neurotransmission and impacts of aging. As a graduate student, I was exposed to Alzheimer disease by becoming involved in new drug trials in Alzheimer patients as a side-line to the cellular – mechanistic studies of my thesis research. This provided me with insight into the human and potential translational aspect of my research. This was a life-changing experience as I saw the struggles of the patients and their caregivers, and the enormous impact that neurodegenerative diseases can have on our aging population. It seemed natural to develop a research program studying the mechanisms by which nerve cells communicate information and the impact that changes that occur in aging and disease have on these processes. I have been very fortunate to be able to combine my passion for investigating these topics with an involvement in outreach activities in the Alzheimer community. This involves volunteer service in local, provincial and national Alzheimer Societies, and serving as an advocate for the value or science and research in finding a cure. I can’t imagine a more exciting or fulfilling career choice.

Research Summary

Research in my laboratory focuses on mechanisms regulating chemical communication in the nervous system in health, normal aging and disease. Much of the research that we carry out involves studies of the function of cholinergic neurons. In brain, these neurons project from basal forebrain nuclei to neocortex and hippocampus playing important roles in cognitive processes such as learning and memory, while cholinergic neurons in striatum are involved in movement and motor functions. Degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons underlie a number of age-related neurological disorders such as Alzheimer disease and some of the cognitive deficits associated with normal aging. Dysfunction of cholinergic neurons in the striatum occurs in movement disorders such as Huntington's chorea, and imbalance between dopaminergic and cholinergic transmission is found in Parkinson's disease and drug-induced disorders such as tardive dyskinesia. Current research interests in my laboratory include the physiological mechanisms controlling events in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the mechanisms by which amyloid peptides cause neuron dysfunction and degeneration and the role that growth and trophic factors may play in regulation of the expression of cholinergic neuronal phenotype and in maintenance and survival of these neurons. Specific projects relate to characterization and regulation of the neuronal choline transport protein and enzyme choline acetyltransferase, and investigation of regulation of delivery of choline and metabolism for acetylcholine synthesis. A range of cellular and molecular biological approaches are used in these investigations, including genomics and proteomics, protein trafficking and molecular imaging, protein chemistry, protein-protein interactions and signal transduction.

Research Questions

How do amyloid peptides impact cholinergic neuron function early in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease? How can this be prevented?

What role does maintaining competent cholinergic neurotransmission play in altering the course of development of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease?

Do certain forms of cholinergic proteins serve a neuroprotective function by regulating amyloid metabolism?


  • B.Sc. (Honours) Physiology and Pharmacology, The University of Western Ontario
  • Ph.D. Pharmacology, The University of Western Ontario


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Pharmacology, University College London, University of London, London, England [Medical Research Council of Canada Fellowship]
  • Visiting Scientist, Abteilung Neurochemie, Max-Planck-Institute fur Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen, Germany


  • Bell Canada Centennial Fellowship
  • Medical Research Council Fellowship
  • J.B. Collip Medal for Medical Research
  • Rubinoff Scholarship in Geriatrics
  • Ontario Ministry of Health Career Scientist Award
  • European Molecular Biology Organization Fellowship
  • Claude P. Beaubien Award for Research in Alzheimer Disease
  • AltaPharm Senior Scientist Award from the Pharmacological Society of Canada
  • Dean’s Award of Excellence in Research, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario
  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal [Governor General of Canada]
  • Distinguished University Professor
  • Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Scientists


  1. Resendes MC, Dobransky T, Ferguson SSG and Rylett RJ (1999) Nuclear localization of the 82 kDa form of human choline acetyltransferase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 274: 19417-19421

  2. Dobransky T, Davis WL and Rylett RJ (2001) Functional characterization of phosphorylation of 69 kDa human choline acetyltransferase at serine-440 by protein kinase C. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 276: 22244-22250

  3. Dobransky T, Brewer D, Lajoie G and Rylett RJ (2003) Phosphorylation of 69 kDa choline acetyltransferase at threonine-456 in response to amyloid-β peptide 1-42. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 278: 5883-5893

  4. Dobransky T and Rylett RJ (2003) Functional regulation of choline acetyltransferase by phosphorylation. Neurochemical Research, 28: 537-542G

  5. Gill SK, Bhattacharya M, Ferguson SSG and Rylett RJ (2003) Identification of a novel nuclear localization signal common to 69- and 82-kDa human choline acetyltransferase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 278: 20217-20224

  6. Dobransky T, Doherty-Kirby A, Kim AR, Lajoie G and Rylett RJ (2004) Protein kinase-C isoforms differentially phosphorylate human choline acetyltransferase regulating its catalytic activity. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 279: 52059-52068

  7. Kim AR, Doherty-Kirby A, Lajoie G, Rylett RJ and Shilton BH (2005) Two methods for large-scale purification of recombinant human choline acetyltransferase. Protein Expression and Purification, 40: 107-117

  8. Dobransky T and Rylett RJ (2005) A model for dynamic regulation of choline acetyltransferase by phosphorylation. Journal of Neurochemistry 95: 305-313

  9. Kim AR, Dobransky T, Rylett RJ and Shilton BH (2005) Surface-entropy reduction used in the crystallization of human choline acetyltransferase. Acta Crystallographica D 61: 1306-1310

  10. Kim AR, Rylett RJ and Shilton BH (2006) Substrate binding and catalytic mechanism of human choline acetyltransferase. Biochemistry 45: 14621-14631

  11. Ribeiro F, Black SAG, Rylett RJ, Prado V, Ferguson SSG and Prado MAM (2006) The ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the high-affinity choline transporter CHT1. Journal of Neurochemistry 97: 1-12

  12. Gill SK, Ishak M, Dobransky T, Haroutunian V, Davis K and Rylett RJ (2007) 82-kDa choline acetyltransferase is found in nuclei of cholinergic neurons in human brain and spinal cord, and this is altered in aging and Alzheimer disease. Neurobiology of Aging 28: 1028-1040

  13. Pinthong M, Black SAG, Ribeiro FM, Pholpramool C, Ferguson SSG and Rylett RJ (2008) Activity and subcellular trafficking of the sodium-coupled choline transporter CHT1 is regulated acutely by peroxynitrite. Molecular Pharmacology 73: 801-812

  14. Hristova VA, Beasley SA, Rylett RJ and Shaw GS (2009) Identification of a new Zn2+-binding domain in the Parkinson’s related E3 ligase Parkin. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 284: 14978-14986

  15. Young KF, Pasternak SH and Rylett RJ (2009) Oligomeric aggregates of amyloid-β peptide 1-42 activate ERK MAPK in SH-SY5Y cells via α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Neurochemistry International, 55: 796-801

  16. Black SAG, Ribeiro FM, Ferguson SSG and Rylett RJ (2010) Rapid, transient effects of the protein kinase C activator PMA on activity and trafficking of the rat high-affinity choline transporter CHT. Neuroscience, 167: 765-773

  17. Black SAG and Rylett RJ (2012) Choline transporter CHT regulation and function in cholinergic neurons. Current Medicinal Chemistry - Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 12, 114-121

  18. Cuddy LK, Gordon AC, Black SAG, Jaworski E, Ferguson SSG and Rylett RJ (2012) Peroxynitrite donor SIN-1 alters high-affinity choline transporter activity by modifying its intracellular trafficking. Journal of Neuroscience, 32: 5573-5584

  19. Kalisch BE, Baskey JC and Rylett RJ (2012) The relationship between choline acetyltransferase and nitric oxide synthase isoform expression in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Parkinsonism, 2: 105-114

  20. Newington JT, Rippon T, Albers S, Wong DY, Rylett RJ and Cumming RC (2012) Overexpression of pyruvate dehydrogenase 1 and lactate dehydrogenase A in nerve cells confers resistance to amyloid beta and other toxins by decreasing mitochondrial respiration and ROS production. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 287: 37245-37258

  21. Cuddy LK, Winick-Ng W and Rylett RJ (2013) Regulation of the high-affinity choline transporter activity and trafficking by its association with cholesterol-rich lipid rafts. Journal of Neurochemistry, 128: 725-740

  22. Albers S, Inthathirath F, Gill SK, Winick-Ng W, Jaworski E, Wong DYL, Gros R and Rylett RJ (2014) Nuclear 82-kDa choline acetyltransferase decreases amyloidogenic APP metabolism in neurons from APP/PS1 transgenic mice. Neurobiology of Disease 69: 32-42

Contact Info

Phone: 519-931-5777 ext. 24078
Email: jane.rylett@schulich.uwo.ca